The speech below was given yesterday at Andy Burnham's Homelessness Summit, the first meeting of the Homelessness Action Network.
I was speaking as Lead for Housing, Homelessness and Planning at a CA level.
Firstly, I would like to welcome you all to Salford today for this discussion on homelessness and, more importantly how we can work together to tackle it.
Salford is a city with a deep-rooted social-democratic conscience.
It was the Manchester and Salford Trades Councils which first founded the Trade Union Congress, at the Mechanics institute in 1868. It was in the streets and pubs of Salford that a young Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels studied and wrote, and where Engels produced some of the most vivid chapters of his groundbreaking work: ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’.
Supported by strong unions on the docks, the Trade Union movement was central to the life of many ordinary Salfordians right up until the deindustrialization of the 1980s. The local identity in this city is strong, and the communities are tight.
Those close-knit communities have been vital over the past century as a lifeline for the people of this city, who have had to rely on eachother for support.
Before the creation of the post-war welfare state, communities in places like Salford had no social safety net. Conditions in houses were cramped and overcrowded, employment was insecure and unregulated, and the cost for basic goods and service was often too much for an ordinary family to afford.
With the alarming rise of homelessness in austerity Britain it seems we are slipping back to those pre-war social conditions. We are seeing a huge increase in Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) – a return to the overcrowding and lack of space not seen since the 1920s-30s. Rents are soaring, inflation is on the rise and wages are stagnating. Living standards are being squeezed – in 21st century Britain we are seeing the recreation of the ‘working poor’.
We are also seeing a huge percentage increase in hospital admissions for malnutrition-related diseases like rickets. All this, while queues for local foodbanks continue to grow.